Bulgaria marks on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, the 810th anniversary since its major victory in the Battleof Adrianople in which the SecondBulgarianEmpire(1185-1396 AD) under Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197-1207) routed the knights from the Fourth Crusade of the Latin Empire (1204-1261 AD) under Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople, also known as Baldwin of Flanders.
The victory of Tsar Kaloyan (who is also known as “the Greek-slayer” or “Roman-slayer”) in the Battle of Adrianople crippled the newbornLatinEmpire established in 1204 AD by the WesternEuropeanknights from the FourthCrusade, who, instead of heading for the HolyLands and Jerusalem as originally stated, ransackedConstantinople, the capital of ChristianByzantium.
It also allowed Bulgaria to reconquer its former territories in the geographic regions of Thrace and Macedonia, and established the Second Bulgarian Empire further as the most powerful state in SoutheastEurope, restoring much of the glory of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018 AD) from the 9th-10th century.
“[The Crusaders from the LatinEmpire] had territorial claims for all of Bulgaria’s territory since they viewed as part of the conquered ByzantineEmpire. This went on regardless of Bulgaria’s recognition by the Papacy. We know that this motivated [the Bulgarian Tsar] Kaloyan in his contacts with PopeInnocentIII. On 7-8 November , there was a churchunion between Bulgaria and the RomanCuria but this did not change essentially [Bulgaria’s] relations with the Crusaders, and this clash followed," explains PlamenPavlov, a history professor at Veliko Tarnovo University “St. Cyril and St. Methodius", in an interview for the Bulgarian information agency Focus.
Prof. Plamen Pavlov adds that even though the clash between the SecondBulgarianEmpire and the LatinEmpire was the Crusaders’ fault it was fully in line with the policy of Bulgaria’s Tsar Kaloyan, and his elder brothers and predecessors, Tsar Asen and Tsar Petar IV, for expanding Bulgaria and claiming the throne of the Byzantine Emperors in Constantinople.
As soon as Tsar Asen I (r. 1187-1196) and Tsar Petar IV (r. 1186-1197) (who ruled as co-emperors, and were succeeded by their young brother Tsar Kaloyan, r. 1197-1207) liberated Bulgaria from Byzantium, they resumed the ancient Bulgarian claim for the Constantinoplethrone assuming the title “Tsar of Bulgarians and Greeks", a reminiscence of the title of Tsar Simeon I the Great from the First Bulgarian Empire who took the title “Tsar of Bulgarians and Romans" after his victory in the Battle of Anchialos (Battle of Achelous) in 917 AD. Tsar Kaloyan was declared by the Roman Papacy rex Bulgarorum et Blachorum (“King of Bulgarians and Wallachians”).
Pavlov explains that after the WesternEuropeanCrusaders conquered Constantinople it was the Byzantines themselves who approached Bulgaria’s Tsar Kaloyan promising him to recognize him as their emperor.
Reconstruction of the face of Tsar Kaloyan unveiled in 2008 based on his skeleton found in 1972 in the Forty Holy Martyrs Church in Bulgaria’s Veliko Tarnovo. Photo: BGNES
Regardless of the Bulgarian ambitions for expansion, however, TsarKaloyan did try to establish good relations with the Latinknights both before and the after their capture of Constantinople, but was turned out with disdain.
The conquest of Constantinople itself occurred after in January 1203, en route to Jerusalem, the Crusaders made an agreement with ByzantineprinceAlexiosAngelos to restore his deposed father as emperor. In August 1203, after clashes outside Constantinople, AlexiosAngelos was crowned as co-Emperor with Crusader support as AlexiosIV alongside his blindedfather, IsaacIIAngelos (r. 1185-1195, 1203-1204 AD). However in January 1204, AlexiosIVAngleos was deposed by a popular uprising in Constantinople, and was murdered on February 8, 1204. In April 1204, the discontent Crusaders captured and brutally ransacked the city setting up the Latin Empire, and partitioning the conquered Byzantine territories among themselves as feuds.
Pavlov explains that the Battleof Adrianople occurred after several Byzantine cities in Thrace including Adrianoplerebelled against the LatinEmpire, and that the fortress of Adrianople had been besieged for 1-2 weeks by the Crusaderknights before the BulgarianTsarKaloyan arrived with his Bulgarian and Cumantroops.
After that Tsar Kaloyan used the light Cumancavalry in order to harass the LatinEmpire troops, and lure them into a pursuit and ambush. His plan failed to work on April 13, 1205, even though some of the Crusaderforces led by Louis I, Count of Blois, engaged in pursuit of the Cumancavalry, and was later reprimanded by Emperor Baldwin. However, the ambush plan worked the following day, on April 14, when the Crusaders chased the Cumans and fell into the trap.
In his interview dedicated to the Battle of Adrianople, Prof. Pavlov reminds that what is pretty much the only known figure about the troops of the Second Bulgarian Empire involved in the battle – the 14,000-strong Cumancavalry – comes from the “Historyof EasternRomanEmpire” written by Byzantine official, historian, and contemporary of the events, Niketas Choniates (ca. 1155- ca. 1215-1216).
Pavlov explains that the Cumans, who were allied with Bulgaria, lived north of the Danube, and needed time to reach the Bulgarian territory. They usually engaged in military campaigns in the colder seasons since in the summer they retreated north as a part of their economic lifestyle.
“[The hypothesis] that the Cumans were the main force of Tsar Kaloyan is very prevalent in international historiography, and to some extent in Bulgarianhistoriography. Their number was indeed high, and that is a fact… On April 14, the Cumancavalry attacked the Crusaders again. It must be noted that the Crusaders underestimated the Cumans and viewed them with contempt because of their light arms. This comes to show that the major merit for the victory belongs to the Bulgarianarmy, and that the heavilyarmoredtroops belonged to TsarKaloyan. The Cumans play an important but auxiliary part… [It was] the Bulgarianarmy who had heavyarms. The problem here was in the military tactics. The Latinknights, who were mostly French, used a military tactic of attacking in several major detachments [concentrating] the entire might of the heavycavalry. That is why TsarKaloyan resorted to an ambush," elaborates the Bulgarianhistorian.
“There is a wrong perception in the public today that the knights were pulled down from their horses [with hooks]. That is true but it isn’t true that once they fell they were helpless. A knight’s armor weighed no more than 25-30 kg which is about the weight of arms carried by modern-day infantrymen. In fact, the knights were involved in infantry battles very often. That is why the element of surprise and the power of the Bulgarianarmy were key," he adds.
“[Another] of the wrong interpretations of the battle is that Bulgaria had a total military superiority, and the knights were only a few hundred men… TsarKaloyan did indeed have superiority but it wasn’t nearly as great as many write. The involvement of 300-400 knights must not be understood literally. Every knight has henchmen, sometimes up to 20, he also has infantry detachments accompanying him. Then, there were also archers and Venetianforces. This means that the two armies were similar [in size]. Of course, the Bulgarianarmy had superiority but an attacking army must always enjoy superiority, and this speaks of the excellent strategicdecisions made by TsarKaloyan,"Pavlov explains.
A map explaining the course of the Battle of Adrianople on April 14, 1205. The Crusader knights besieging the rebelling city of Adrianople were harassed and lured into pursuit by lightly armored Cuman cavalry, and fell into the ambush of the heavily armored Bulgarian forces. Map: Kandi, Wikipedia
He says further that the Battleof Adrianople was an utter defeat for the Crusaders, and that Count Louis I of Blois was to blame since he broke for the second time the decision of the knights’ military council, and engaged the Cuman cavalry. The Doge of Venice Enrico Dandolo (HenryDandolo, HenricusDandulus) (in office 1192-1205 AD), in Pavlov’s words, the “social engineer" of the FourthCrusade, who was really old, died of exhaustion during the battle, which “beheaded" the enemy of the Bulgarians. Count Louis of Blois was killed in the battle, as were most of the knights, and Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople (Baldwin of Flanders) was taken captive.
“This was a crushing blow to the Latin Empire. Even though it existed until 1261 AD, it could not carry out its original designs. Another important result [from the Battle of Adrianople] which has been underscored by many scholars is the survival of the Byzantineworld. Thanks to Tsar Kaloyan, the NiceanEmpire and the Despotate of Epirus survived. His achievement is not just for Bulgaria, which managed to establish political hegemony in the Balkans and to unite much of its lands… Tsar Kaloyan had many military victories. This was [technically] a war with an international coalition because [the Crusaders] had troops from France, Germany, Italy – the world of the Westernknighthood… The significance of his policy was that very shortly after the Rebellion of Petar and Asen Bulgaria was turned from a forgotten Byzantineprovince into a powerfulstate on the Europeanstage… We see that it is possible in just 20 years to turn a formerly subdued territory into a regional power," the Bulgarianhistorian sums up.
A map showing the territorial expansion of Bulgaria achieved during the reign of Tsar Kaloyan (r.1197-1207 AD). Map: Kandi, Wikipedia
Another map showing the territorial expansion of Bulgaria achieved during the reign of Tsar Kaloyan (r.1197-1207 AD). Map: Kandi, Wikipedia
Pavlov points out that no archaeologicalexcavations have been carried out on the site of the Battleof Adrianople which is near the point where the rivers of Tundzha and Arda flow into the MaritsaRiversoutheast of the Bulgarianborder, in today’s Turkey. However, he specifies that the battle did not occur at a single spot but on a large-scale military theater.
And on October 25, 2015, Bulgaria will be celebrating 830 years since the Rebellion of Asen and Petar which liberated it from Byzantium, and created the Second Bulgarian Empire (later the brothers became Tsar Asen I, r. 1187-1196, and Tsar Petar IV, r. 1186-1197; they ruled as co-emperors, and were succeeded by their young brother, Tsar Kaloyan, r. 1197-1207).
Veliko Tarnovo University professor Plamen Pavlov has also spoken about the upcoming anniversary of Bulgaria’s Liberation from Byzantium in 1185.
“This is an important example of how we liberated ourselves. The matrix instilled in the mind of today’s Bulgarians is that somebody liberates us, and that we need patrons. The case with Tsar Petar and Tsar Asen shows that a mobilization of a society’s forces, and leaders with clear goals and a strong political will can yield results,"Pavlov concludes, possibly referring to more recent historical events such as the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Turkish Empire by the Russian Empire in 1878, the de facto occupationof Bulgaria by the Soviet Union during World War II in 1944, and the end of the communist regime in 1989.
The Battle of Adrianople (in 1205)took place on April 13 and April 14, 1205 AD. In it the forces of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) under Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197-1207) routed the knights of the Fourth Crusade from the Latin Empire (1204-1261 AD) under Emperor Baldwin I on Constantinople, also known as Baldwin of Flanders.
The Battle of Adrianople in 1205 resulted from the growing enmity between the Western European knights from the Fourth Crusade and the Bulgarian Empire, after in 1204 the Crusaders deviated from their goal of taking Jerusalem, and instead ransackedConstantinople, the capital of the ByzantineEmpire, founding their LatinEmpire. Even though by that time the BulgarianTsarKaloyan had established good relations with Pope InnocentIII in Rome who organized the Fourth Crusade, the WesternEuropean (mostly French) knights demanded the obedience of the BulgarianTsar arguing that since they had taken Constantinople, they had a right to the entire supposedly Byzantine domain, including all of Bulgaria, which had liberateditself from Byzantium 20 years earlier. The conquest of Constantinople itself occurred after in January 1203, en route to Jerusalem, the Crusaders made an agreement with ByzantineprinceAlexiosAngelos to restore his deposed father as emperor. In August 1203, after clashes outside Constantinople, AlexiosAngelos was crowned as co-Emperor with Crusader support as AlexiosIV alongside his blinded father, IsaacIIAngelos (r. 1185-1195, 1203-1204 AD). However in January 1204, AlexiosIV was deposed by a popular uprising in Constantinople, and was murdered on 8 February 1204. In April 1204, the discontent Crusaderscaptured and brutallyransacked the city setting up the Latin Empire, and partitioning the conquered Byzantine territories among themselves as feuds.
The 1205BattleofAdrianople was won by the Bulgarians and their Cumanallies, after an ambush. The Bulgarian forces are estimated to have been around 40,000 troops, including 14,000 lightly armed Cuman cavalry.The Crusaders’ forces are also estimated at tens of thousands, including 300 West European heavy mounted knights. Most of the 300 WesternEuropeanknights were killed in the Battleof Adrianople, making it one of the greatest defeats ever suffered by Crusaders. LatinEmperorBaldwinIofConstantinople (BaldwinofFlanders) was taken prisoner and died in captivity after a year later. He was kept in a fortresstower in the then Bulgarian capital Tarnovgrad (today’s Veliko Tarnovo) which is known to this day as Baldwin’s Tower. It is unknown how exactly he died, especially since it is believed that he was treated well at first. There are stipulations that he was killed by the BulgarianTsarKaloyan in a fit of rage, possibly over a revolt in Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv) which led the city to be surrendered to the LatinEmpire. A Bulgarian legend has it that Baldwin found his death after trying to seduce the Bulgarian Tsaritsa (i.e. empress).
After the Battle of Adrianople, the Second Bulgarian Empire overran most of the geographic regions of Thrace and Macedonia. The first Latin Emperor Baldwin was succeeded by his younger brother, Henryof Flanders, who took the throne on August 20, 1206. Bulgaria and the NiceanEmpire (one of the three successor states of Byzantium, which ultimately restored it in 1261 AD) made an alliance against the LatinEmpire. In 1207, the Bulgarians attacked and killed MarquessBonifaceof Montferrat, a feudal lord with French and Italianestates who in 1202 AD became the leader of the FourthCrusade and KingofThessaloniki (r. 1205-1207). He was beheaded at Messinopolis, and his head was sent to Tsar Kaloyan. One of the major written sources for the Battle of Adrianople is the Chronicles of Geoffrey de Villehardouin, a Frenchknight and historian who chronicled the FourthCrusade.